A GLOBAL WARNING.
The man introduces himself as the guy “who used to be the next president of the United States”. Then he gives a passionate speech, a global warning indeed, on the deteriorating quality of our environment. The man is Al Gore, the former Vice President who won the popular vote in 2000 but lost the election. It was a bruising experience, but he picked up the pieces. This is a film about him as much as global warming.
There’s nothing wrong with that; painting a portrait of an interesting, impressive human being who’s conveying the message only gives this documentary an extra dimension. The only problem is that Al Gore spent a lot of time in the corridors of power. He was a U.S. Representative, a Senator and a Vice President. So he must have had several chances to do something about the threats against the environment, but we learn nothing about these possible achievements.
There are plenty of justified digs at the inefficient Bush administration (including Gore’s words about how terrorism may not be the single greatest threat against mankind), but this film never tells us what the Clinton administration accomplished. It shouldn’t be a politically divisive question, but it is, and Gore’s presence only makes it more so. Still, it’s easy to see why the filmmakers decided to make a documentary after watching his slide presentation. After losing the election, the former Vice President realized that he still had the chance to make a difference by traveling around the world and alert people to the dangers of treating Earth the way we do now.
Gore is known for his genuine interest in environmental issues and he has become convinced of one fact: unless we do something to stop the effects of global warming, our civilization will begin to slide into destruction within a decade. The figures are that alarming and Gore puts them on display to great effect, showing how the famous snows of Kilimanjaro are disappearing along with many of the glaciers of the world.
Gore’s presentation even includes a clip from an episode of Futurama that explains the concept of global warming and how greenhouse gases work. It’s an entertaining film, but the message is depressing. Director Guggenheim’s work ends with positive suggestions on how we can change the world, but we all know that it’s a steep political challenge. Global warming is still questioned (primarily by politicians and various activists, not by scientists) and the people of the world don’t sense the urgency, perhaps not even those who suffered in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina struck, a storm that gained such ferocious strength because of the warm water in the Gulf, arguably a result of global warming.
Perhaps this is a launching pad for Al Gore’s rekindled presidential ambitions. I don’t care. His message here and now is to act and he illustrates it perfectly by telling a story about how his father grew tobacco in the days when no one knew of the dangers of smoking. Then Gore’s sister, a long-time smoker, died of lung cancer and her father stopped growing tobacco. If we know we’re doing something that threatens our lives, how can we not stop doing it?
An Inconvenient Truth 2006-U.S. 96 min. Color. Produced by Laurie David, Lawrence Bender, Scott Z. Burns. Song: “I Need to Wake Up” (Melissa Etheridge). Directed by Davis Guggenheim. Featuring Al Gore.
Trivia: Followed by An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power (2017).
Oscars: Best Documentary Feature, Original Song.
Quote: “I’m Al Gore, I used to be the next president of the United States of America.” (Gore’s first line)
Last word: “The biggest challenge was time. We all thought that the issue was very urgent, that it was coming to a head, and that if we spent two years making it we would be letting ourselves down. So we gave ourselves the impossible task of making it in six months. With the last documentary I did it took two and a half years. The other hurdle was convincing Al to open up and tell us the personal story – he didn’t think it was relevant. And then, simply just getting all these graphs and charts and photographs and pulling them together and making them visual, making them dynamic.” (Guggenheim, World Changing)